Dukes win holiday tournament

Published 11:42 am Monday, December 31, 2018

Cumberland County High School’s varsity boys basketball team pushed its overall 2018-19 record past .500 with a 2-0 showing at the recent two-day holiday tournament that it hosted. The Dukes defeated Prince Edward County High School 52-42 Friday night to claim the tournament championship.

The Eagles looked like they might take control early in the game, jumping out to a 7-0 lead. This prompted Cumberland Head Coach Tyrone Mosby to call a timeout, after which his team turned things around and stayed in the lead for the majority of the contest.

In that timeout, “we pulled them to the side and talked to them about tightening up,” Mosby said. He noted telling his players, “‘We need better ball movement. If we’re open, take the shot,’ and we gave up some shots we should have taken, and then in transition, we didn’t get back on defense and gave up some easy buckets. So, just basically, ‘Get back on defense, take what the defense gives you and play.’”

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The Dukes led 12-10 after the first quarter, 28-18 at halftime and 40-27 after three quarters.

Cumberland senior center Christian Jackson led his team with 20 points and 20 rebounds, and senior guard Mark Patterson Jr. added 12 points.

Senior point guard Noah Bland had only four points, “but what he does on the floor for us, you can’t replace it with points,” Mosby said.

Bland was named the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the tournament.

Mosby said Bland earned that honor because of “his leadership on the defensive end and running the offense for us, being that leader that we need this year. If he continues to do that, things will open up a little better for him going down the stretch of the season …”

The coach highlighted how Bland is an important voice on the team, helping enhance execution — for example — by always talking about where people should be on defense.

“So his leadership, I think, is most important right now for us,” Mosby said.

The Dukes have also benefited from the return of their 6-foot-7-inch center, Jackson, who had been sidelined for the first four games of the season while recovering from knee surgery. He tore his meniscus during football season.

He made his first appearance on the hardwood in a 57-23 road loss to Carver College and Career Academy on Dec. 19.

“It was basically a feel-out game for him from me, just to see whether he can get up and down the floor and how his pivots were and his jumping ability coming off the surgery,” Mosby said.

Cumberland’s next game came Thursday, the first day of the holiday tournament, and Jackson tied with Bland in producing a team-high 13 points to help the Dukes defeat Nottoway High School 67-46.

Jackson was key in Cumberland’s run to the regional championship last season, the program’s first regional title in 27 years.

Explaining what Jackson brings to the team when he’s on the court, Mosby said, “He’s big, let me put it that way, and a lot of times, when we play teams, they probably are going to play zone. If they do play us (man-to-man), they’re probably going to double him, which is fine. He’s just got to find the open guy. So, he brings his size, he has the experience from last year. Coming off that knee surgery, I just want him to take his time and get back similar to where he was last year, at that level. Second half of the season — it could be a big opportunity for him.”

Elevating the Dukes’ chances of making another deep playoff run is the fact that they have a lot of players making substantive contributions on the court. In the win against Nottoway, Jackson and Bland weren’t the only notable scorers, as junior forward Kameryn Woodson added 10 points, and Patterson and sophomore forward Javon Marion had eight apiece.

“It was pretty balanced,” Mosby said.

Bland and Marion were named to the all-tournament team along with Prince Edward junior forward A.J. Lewis.

Evaluating his team’s performance across the two games in the holiday tournament, Mosby said it was good, but added, “I think we’ve still got a lot of room for improvement, especially on the defensive end. We’re not playing with the same intensity that we were at last year, to me. So that’s my biggest emphasis — in-your-face, grimy, scrappy defense. If we can get back to that level as a group, I think we’ll be fine.”

Cumberland opened the season with wins over Prince Edward and Amelia County High School. Then the Dukes fell to Franklin High School, Goochland High School and Carver Academy before their 2-0 run in the holiday tourney, which puts them at 4-3 overall.

“I’m OK with it,” Mosby said of the record. “We lost to Goochland by 12, which it was OK. I could deal with that, but the 30-point loss at Carver, that was hard to deal with. We constantly turned the ball over, so in practice, we’re working on more ball movement and better passes, and hopefully … Saturday, we get our chance to redeem ourselves against them here for the second game rematch.”

Cumberland hosts Buckingham County High School (3-2) on Wednesday at 7 p.m. and then Carver Academy on Saturday at 5:30 p.m.